Standing back at shows, it is strange to see so many people stop and look at a machine that never performed in the UK. A bike that dominated a sport we know little or nothing about, but the fact is they do indeed pay their respects to the mighty XR750.
The XR is arguably the most instantly recognisable icon of the 70’s US biking scene and yet also one of the rarest with a contentious 200 machines, some complete some nothing like, ever having been produced for the first homologation line up and way less than that actually surviving.
The iron motor 1969 XR750 is a far rarer beast than the more prolific, and successful alloy engined racer and this Bill Werner framed machine, actually stamped 69XR001, saw action from late 69 all the way through until 1974 when a major crash put paid to any more races. Bill Werner began working in the HD race department as a mechanic during 1966 and three years later was responsible for much of the development of the factory Harley racers and 001 was used as a test bed for this development work. Many modifications were made to the engine and framework as the years rolled by and this work is still evident today making the machine even more unique
The machine seen here belongs to Alastair McQuaid, a 43 year old, Ducati Monster owning, civil servant from Sutton Coldfield, obviously he has a passion for high bars and hot air-cooled engines. Despite not really being a Harley fan he none the less had a yearning for the XR, one was advertised in MCN and once it was seen it had to be his. He acquired it in the summer of 1992 and began a 10 yearlong rebuild reverting the flat tracker to something like its original competition state.
The machine had been changed a little; it wore the wrong bodywork for the period and was also wrapped in the wrong frame. “I sought to conserve rather than replace” Alastair states, “ a little transatlantic trading saw me swap some of the wrong parts for the original Werner frame, oil tank and Lipp body work returning the bike to its original prototype specification and looks. As far as I’m concerned it has earned its history in its scars and it earned them in the heat of AMA competition”.
It won the award for “Best competition machine” at the Classic Motorcycle show in April 2003 along with the “Best racer” trophy at the Mechanics show later that same year and is still used albeit not as regularly as Alastair would like. “ I confess to having ridden it brakeless although I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. Those old racers were real heroes” he remarked, “ Owning and restoring the XR has been very absorbing enabling me to meet some great people on both sides of the Atlantic. I enjoy tinkering and even just sitting back and looking at it but the best bit is running it the sound through those open megas is simply unbelievable”.
The Harley racer sits in Alastair’s garage alongside the modern Ducati and a very similar machine to the XR, a 70’s Trackmaster Yamaha 650 that was used by the frame maker as a test bed for ideas as well as competing against the likes of the Harley in the US. “There is something very special about racing machinery,” Alastair said, “Nothing is fitted on a flat tracker that doesn’t help it go forward or turn left, it is a very purposeful design”.
When asked what else could get his collecting juices flowing few machines could out do the XR although if an early 1900’s Board tracker Indian came up he may well be tempted.
Harley Davidson XR750 Flat Tracker Restoration Gallery